OTTAWA — Have you spent the pandemic shaking your fist at federal politicians, thinking you could have done a much better job?
Now’s your chance.
With a federal election expected within months, the parties are racing to get candidates in place, and doors are closing on the process all across the country.
But fear not. The vast majority of ridings still don’t have full slates of candidates — there is room for you yet!
And even if the riding you live in seems like a long-shot for the political party of your choice, don’t forget the 2015 election.
That year, a surprise surge in support for the New Democrats saw a slate of MPs elected that included at least one who wasn’t even in the country for part of the campaign.
Here’s a look at the state of play for candidate nominations for the national federal parties.
Liberals: 166 open ridings
Between sitting MPs who are running again and candidates who have been acclaimed, the Liberals have someone to run in about half of Canada’s 338 ridings.
Nomination contests began in the last couple of weeks in ridings where more than one person has shown an interest in seeking the nod.
Currently, they’ve got just one more on the calendar, in Sudbury, a riding they won in the last election but where the current MP isn’t running again.
Many of the open seats are comfortable homes for the Liberals’ rivals, but there’s still room for fun.
Among the open spots? Former Green party leader Elizabeth May doesn’t have a Liberal opponent in her B.C. riding, and Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet’s Quebec riding doesn’t have one, either.
The Liberals have triggered an “electoral urgency” clause in their campaign process, allowing the party to speed up deadlines to find candidates.
In theory though, before the party calls a nomination contest to a vote, it requires riding associations to prove they’ve done thorough searches for people from communities traditionally under-represented in Parliament: women; Black, Indigenous or people of colour; LGBTQ2; people with disabilities; and marginalized communities.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a direct pitch to would-be candidates when the Liberals began their search, noting that experiences during the pandemic may motivate some people to get more involved.
“If you’ve been rolling up your sleeves and working to help your community, if you care deeply about the future of this country, this may be the perfect way for you to step up,” Trudeau said.
Conservatives: 122 open ridings
The process for running for the Conservatives opened up back in September, and since then the Tories have led the way among parties getting people in place.
They’re now beginning to lock things down, changing the timelines associated with the nominations process to sew up the roster.
This week, the party notified 25 ridings without candidates that their time to find the right person has run out entirely.
Anyone who had already put their name in the mix was given just two more days to sign up members to support their bid, and a vote will be called within days.
The remaining ridings are on notice that the party will take the same approach with them soon, meaning if you’re thinking about stumping for the Conservatives, it’s time to get your nomination ducks in a row — fast.
“All signs from Justin Trudeau are now pointing to an election call. Earlier this month, Trudeau’s campaign co-chairs invoked an “electoral urgency” clause,” says a letter obtained by the Star that was sent to riding associations this week from Conservative party president Rob Batherson.
“As a party, we therefore have to do everything possible to be ready.”
Among the vacant spots? Central Nova, the longtime political home of former cabinet minister and Conservative MP Peter MacKay, who ran for leadership of the party last year and lost. Had he won, he likely would have sought that seat in Parliament, but his offer to run this time around was rebuffed.
New Democrats: 223 open ridings
The New Democrats say they have 115 candidates nominated or dates set to elect or acclaim them, meaning those ridings are locked in.
That leaves 223 ridings where it might not be too late to sign up to run — including two in which an NDP MP isn’t running again, making them seats that are perhaps easier to win than elsewhere: Nunavut and St. John’s East.
The NDP has a rule though — when an incumbent vacates a seat, the next candidate must be a member of an equity-seeking group or a young person.
It’s part of the party’s belief that diversifying its roster means more than just who is on the candidate list.
“You have to nominate them in ridings they can win,” said party spokesperson Melanie Richer.
Despite the potential for an election soon, the NDP has yet to change any of the rules or timelines associated with finding candidates.
It took about two weeks into the last federal campaign for the party to have candidates in all 338 ridings, a situation it attributed to its vetting process and the requirement for riding associations to find candidates who are traditionally under-represented in Parliament.
The party was also rebuilding itself after the 2017 leadership race won by Jagmeet Singh.
“The time we’re in a way different scenario,” Richer said.
“People have gotten to know Jagmeet Singh.”
Green party: 315 open ridings
In February, the Greens launched a targeted candidate recruitment campaign called “Time to Run,” aimed at helping them field a diverse slate across the country.
“The Green party believes that it’s time to build a Parliament as diverse as the Canadians it represents,” Leader Annamie Paul said in launching the campaign.
“Too often, people look at politicians and politics and don’t see themselves. The Green party is saying, ‘We see you and we value your leadership. Maybe you’ve never pictured yourself in politics, but if you wake up every day putting your community first, you’re the kind of candidate we want.’”
While in many ridings, the Greens have not traditionally been competitive, there are places where their share of the vote has been on the rise in recent elections — and where, so far, they don’t have candidates.
Among them is Guelph, where provincial Green party Leader Mike Schreiner holds a seat, and Fredericton, where now-Liberal MP Jenica Atwin won for the Greens in 2019.
Party spokesperson Rosie Emery said nomination contests are scheduled throughout the summer.
Paul is the only federal leader who currently doesn’t have a seat in Parliament. She’s running in Toronto Centre, a longtime Liberal stronghold, where she came in second place in the byelection there last year.